jonathanbogart asked: How about a Rushmore of Spanish-language songs?
Wow. I’m trying to figure out where to begin. My mind is mostly racing through Cuba, but there are so many great ones from all over Spain and Latin America (kind of an understatement, I know). Do I keep it to the clave? Do I throw in a an old Spanish soul-rock tune? HOW DO I DO IT? Aye caramba, let’s just get on with it.
1. “El Manisero.” We’ll use the Don Azpiazu version featuring Antonio Machin for reference, because it’s the first and probably still greatest version, but really, when is this song ever not great? I’ve heard it translated into French and English, but Spanish is still the language it sounds best in.
2. Los Zafiros: “La Luna en Tu Mirada” Cone of peanuts firmly in hand, we’ll move on to a song that’s more definitively owned by a specific recording by a particular artist, the unbeatable Los Zafiros. The harmonies on this are of course impeccable, and the verses are like cut diamonds translated into music.
3. Patricio Manns: “Arriba en la Cordillera.” Manns is a Chilean songwriter and activist who spent the Pinochet years in exile. He’s made dozens of recordings, but this one, made early in his career, may be his greatest statement of patriotic pride, building its narrative around the image of a country situated at once in the mountains and by the sea.
4. Toña la Negra: “El Cacahuatero.” So many other things could be #4. I’m sort of stabbing toward the torso and taking what I hit first. Toña la Negra was the stage name of María Antonia del Carmen Peregrino Álvarez, who born in Veracruz in 1912. She sang mostly boleros, but also other styles, and she was one of the primary interpreters of Agustin Lara. This hot little tune, recorded sometime in the 1930s, is just totally infectious. I’ve been trying to learn to sing along properly, and not just phonetically.
If I try to round out a top ten, I’ll be here all night.